Scenic USA - Kansas

Southwind Nature Trail

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Southwind Nature Trail - Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Kansas

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     At one time, before American settlers arrived in the late 1800s, North America was covered in an immense 150 million acre swath of tallgrass prairie. Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Entrance Reduced to a mere fraction of the original prairie today, east-central Kansas visitors are still able to explore one of the few remaining tracts of tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills. Named for the local Kansa Indians (People of the Southwind), the Southwind Nature Trail guides visitors over this unique prairie landscape. Under two miles, the trail leads through the grassland to expansive prairie views and introduces visitors to local prairie plants, mammals, birds and a prairie stream. Lined with cottonwood and hackberry trees, the stream leads out to the Fox Creek Schoolhouse. Both overlook areas allow visitors a chance to experience and appreciate a different type of beauty in Kansas prairie. Jones Mansion - Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
     Because the land was scattered in limestone and chert outcroppings (once thought to be flint), the land proved unsuitable for farming. A Colorado couple arrived in 1880 and soon discovered the benefits of this vast grassland. Stephen and Louisa Jones first bought 160 acres along Fox Creek and eventually established a 7000 acre ranch. They enclosed the ranch with a 30 mile long stone fence and built a three story stone mansion. Positioned by a natural spring, builders quarried local limestone for the main building material. The prairie home was completed in 1881 at the tidy sum of 25,000 dollars. A massive limestone barn and stable followed, measuring 110 by 60 feet. Tallgrass Prairie Preserve - Limestone Barn and Stable First named Spring Hill Farm and Stock Ranch, surprisingly Jones sold this grand estate in 1888 to neighbor and banking partner Barney Lantry for 95,000 dollars.
     After the property exchanged hands numerous times over the years, the National Park Trust purchased the majority of the property in 1994. The house, barn and schoolhouse were later donated to the National Park Service in 2002. The Tallgrass Nature Preserve is now owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy. Here at the trailhead, visitors will also enjoy seeing the original Jones family house and limestone stable.

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